Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Alexandria Moreno--clever, sexy, ambitious and, at times, self-destructive. She blazes a path from Texas to Los Angeles at the dawn of the 1980s to make her dreams of becoming an A-list Hollywood film director come true. She and her best friend arrive in Los Angeles with little more than hope and the determination to make it big. Alex, a beauty as dark and mysterious as her scarred heart, stands at the bottom of the Hollywood mountain looking up, fighting for her chance to climb to the top. Will her quest to live fast and take no prisoners on her way to success destroy her in the end?

All That Glitters is a women's fiction Jackie Collins-type saga that introduces a strong, driven Latina heroine at the center of a rags-to-riches story spanning a decade of action. Along the way, Alexandria walks the fine line separating ambition and self-destruction, and discovers that some sacrifices will cost her everything.

Reviewed by: Celia
Rating: 3.5 stars

Review: Alexandria Moreno is a renowned Hollywood starlet with everything a girl could ever dream of—fame, money, and a hot stud. Unfortunately, behind all that glitter lies a patch of dark shame and sadness. Suddenly, the charade of the glitz and glamour becomes too overwhelming for Alex as she begins to ponder what keeps her going and how she came to this meaningless lifestyle.

Then the story rewinds to when it all began when Alex and her friend, Elly, journeyed the road from Texas to Los Angeles to make something of themselves. Together, the girls contend with crummy motels, dead-end wages, and leery men while mesmerizing over glowing beach sunsets grazing over Pacific waters. Story is a compilation of parties, sex, drugs, and shady business—it’s Hollywood, after all!

As the girls get caught up in the hype of beauty, fame, and money, they soon realize that the life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. At times, the story takes on a humdrum quality as repetitive aspects and various characters come into play, which causes a lag in the flow.

Well-written and captivating, this story takes the reader on an enrapturing ride through the ritzy glamour and sordid underbelly of Hollywood.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Q&A with Liza Treviño

Liza Treviño hails from Texas, spending many of her formative years on the I-35 corridor of San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. In pursuit of adventure and a Ph.D., Liza moved to Los Angeles where she compiled a collection of short-term, low-level Hollywood jobs like script girl, producer assistant and production assistant. Her time as a Hollywood Jane-of-all-trades gave her an insider's view to a world most only see from the outside, providing the inspiration for creating a new breed of Latina heroine.

    1.       What inspired you to write All that Glitters?

I’ve always been a reader and a writer since I was a kid. I loved – LOVE – all kinds of genres: horror, suspense, romance, but Jackie Collins, in particular, always held a special place in my heart. I adore her work and all Hollywood fiction.  I gobbled it up when I was a teenager.  Eventually, I was re-reading one of my favorites of hers while I was in grad school in Los Angeles, and it hit me.  Where is a Latina Lucky Santangelo? I wanted to read about a badass character like Lucky Santangelo, but I wanted her to be Latina. And that’s how it started for me. I began thinking about the popular stories I liked to read and decided I was going to create those kinds of stories but put a Latina at the center of the action.  That’s definitely something I wanted to read. I couldn’t find it, so I started writing


2.       What were Alex and Elly’s ultimate goal in their journey?

Alex and Elly, strangely enough, are on similar journeys. There are three key relationships in the book, and each of the relationship highlights different but complimentary themes that overlap. Themes that include the redemptive nature of loyalty and friendship, the destructive power of giving into your worst impulses, facing your demons, learning to love yourself, self-acceptance and trust. Both Alex and Elly come up against these questions and they each have to figure out these answers for themselves.


3.       How did the main characters evolve in the story and what did they find in the end?

Over a span of the ten to twelve years, we follow Alex and Elly as they each grapple with heartbreak, love, envy and ambition.  In the end, each woman learns their true nature only by going through similar di the nature of the way they each deal with difficult situations.

4. What are some of the main socio-economic issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?

The main socio-economic issues tackled in this book are sexism, gender inequality and the masked yet innate racism/prejudice all ethnic others face.  My story is about this Latina, Alex Moreno, who decides to set her sights on filmmaking as her life’s work. This is what she wants more than anything else in the world.  She is an outsider and she wants to break in and take a seat at a table in one of the toughest businesses there is. Given that Hollywood is a notorious guy’s club, this book had to take a very particular look at gender and sexism through the lens of this most glamorous business.  And, while Alex doesn’t experience overt racism, prejudicial slurs toward her surface when others are threatened by Alex and her success.  By tackling these issues this way, I hoped to bring to light prevalent inequalities that existed and continue to exist at every level. I get no pleasure considering how relevant these issues are today, when the book’s setting is nearly three decades old.


5. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

I hope readers enjoy the book, first and foremost.  Also, I’d love for them to feel like they gained a new Latina hero; someone who is both recognizable and larger than life.


6.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

Best: Finishing a story and knowing the ending feels right. It literally feels like a weight has lifted and the story is out of me and into the world. And the satisfaction that I did it.

Worst: Just before starting a new story or project. I get racked with insecurity that I’ve forgotten how to write.


7.       Who are some of your favorite authors?
     Jackie Collins and Joan Didion are my absolute favorites. I'm also a big fan of Carlos Fuentes, Carrie Fisher, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King.

8.       If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.) 
This used to be a very difficult question. While writing, there were different actresses I could see aspects of Alexandria Moreno, but none were quite her. Recently, I saw the Latina actress Adria Arnoja in NBC’s Emerald City. She definitely is the best fit for Alex Moreno. No doubt about it.


9.       Are you working on anything right now?
     Yes! All That Glitters is a 3-part series, and I’m working on the second installment. I just finished a Christmas-time romantic comedy set in San Antonio, and I’m developing a true crime, detective story also set in San Antonio, Texas.


10.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

My sincere hope is that Latinas are recognized for the avid readers they are! I think the “Diverse Books movement” is going to result in the providing Latino stories across an array of genres. While the immigrant narrative will always be a part of Latino literature, the future will move beyond the immigrant narrative and expand and spread out among all the popular genres. We all enjoy these pop genres, but what’s missing is the Latino representation. And making Latinos the protagonist, the center of the action is long overdue. That future is here.

 Find out more at
Coming up: A review of All that Glitters


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: ANGIE by R.A. Rios

This is a story of young love and personal prejudices during the 1950's and 1960's. This is an interactive book giving the reader a whole new perspective when reading short stories.
When Angie the daughter of a Latin family meets Frank a young man from China sparks begin to fly as family conflict forces Angie to lie and go behind her parents back in order to cultivate their romance. As you join us on this real life experience you will find yourself rooting for Angie and Frank.

Reviewed by: Sandra
Rating: 2 stars

Review: Upon first impression, I assumed that this book was a story about Angie. But when I started reading the first chapter titled “Are You Alone,” which was written in the 1st Person POV, I started to question it because the voice sounded male. So I was instantly confused.

As I read on, I found out that the guy’s name was Robert, a freshman in college that meets a girl named Angie during Spring Break. Then Angie begins to tell a story about a Chinese man and his love for a Latin girl. From then on, the whole thing turns into a monologue, taking the reader to 1950’s Colorado and the musical reign of Rock n’ Roll.

Reading through it, I often wondered what the whole point of this story was. I didn’t really get it. And the typos didn’t really help any, even though I usually try to overlook them as long as it doesn’t deter from the story. But this story didn’t really hold any interest. It almost felt like reading a series of run-ons, with no periods and no pause for breath. It just didn’t suit me.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: PACIFIC REAPER by Carmen Amato

Acapulco detective Emilia Cruz confronts a death-worshipping cult in PACIFIC REAPER, the fifth novel in the series that takes you inside Mexico's drug wars with a fearless style and an unforgettable woman.

Imagine if you were the first and only female police detective in Acapulco, investigating crime in a city both deadly and breathtaking. Mexican drug cartels battle for control and politicians are bought with blood money.

Gang warfare rages across Acapulco.

Murder victims are sacrificed to Santa Muerte, Mexico’s forbidden saint of death.

Will you investigate? Or be cursed?

In the remote Coyuca Lagoon reserve, Detective Emilia Cruz Emilia and her partner Franco Silvio find an elaborate altar to Santa Muerte next to the body of a known gang member. Prayers to the so-called Skeleton Saint curse the deity’s enemies.

Another murder victim is hung from a billboard. Soon it’s clear that a new gang has moved into Acapulco looking to grab a share of the lucrative meth trade.

Focusing on the Santa Muerte angle, Emilia’s investigation is soon a maze of unholy clues. At the same time, everyone close to her has a brush with death. Bad luck? Or is the Skeleton Saint’s curse coming true?

The closer Emilia gets to the truth, the worse things get. When she goes undercover as a Santa Muerte worshipper on the eve of the Day of the Dead, her life will be stripped of everything she holds dear.

Her family.

Her lover.

Her job.


Reviewed by: Celia
Rating:  3 stars

Review: For Detective Emilia Cruz, sometimes the danger can be too much.

I enjoyed the Latina flair against the backdrop of a luscious beach resort masquerading as a Mexican battleground for crime and drug lords. The story line sounded interesting and the mystery could certainly send a thrill to crime-loving aficionados, however, I wasn't that enticed. Let's put aside that I'm not a big crime buff. I just thought the plot was too complex. I was almost lost at times.

Although well-written, the story felt besieged by a variety of characters, even though they carried great dialogue. It felt crowded and overwhelming.

I applaud that there is another book dedicated to a strong Latina character, but I just felt lukewarm about the story.



Friday, September 8, 2017

Q&A with Carmen Amato

Carmen Amato the author of romantic thrillers and the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco. She's the first female police detective in Acapulco and the series has been optioned for television by a major US network.

Carmen loves to travel and Mexico and Central America provided the impetus for her writing career. Her books live at the tangled intersection of risk, power, and corruption.

Every month, she shares the Mystery Ahead newsletter with thousands of mystery readers and writers. Together they explore what makes for a compelling mystery with writing protips, author and publishing insider interviews, books reviews, and Q&A from the Mystery Ahead mailbag.

Visit her website at to get a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library and subscribe to Mystery Ahead.

1.  What inspired you to write Pacific Reaper?

Thank you for hosting me! Pacific Reaper is the fifth book in the Detective Emilia Cruz series set in Acapulco. She’s the first female police detective in Acapulco, which over the last 10 years has gone from tourist mecca to one of the most violent cities in the world, thanks to drug violence. The first four books in the series established Emilia as a fighter but also as a woman trying to have a love life and a successful career amid the machismo, drug smuggling and official corruption. But in Pacific Reaper, her carefully built life comes unglued.


2.  What kind of research did you do, if any?

Early in the book, Emilia and her partner Franco Silvio discover an altar to Santa Muerte, the folklore saint of death, next to a murder victim. Soon they believe a gang is invoking Santa Muerte to intimidate a rival. I first became interested in developing a Santa Muerte story line after finding a booklet of scary prayers to Santa Muerte at an outdoor book fair in Mexico City, but really had my eyes opened by Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut in his book, Devoted to Death. The colors of Santa Muerte artifacts, the type of item left on altars, and the intersection of Santa Muerte beliefs and law enforcement all provided important details that appear in Pacific Reaper.


3.  Did you relate to the main character, Emilia Cruz, in any way? If so, what?

I get asked this question a lot. Emilia and I are both Catholic and were raised by single moms. We both know how to take action and get things done. That being said, I’m more polite than Emilia and have more shoes. She’s much quicker on the draw and lets her mouth get out of control. Also, I’m into yoga and she’s a kickboxer. That, more than anything, illustrates the difference between us!


4.  What was Emilia’s connection to Las Perdidas and what was her purpose with it?

One of Emilia’s friends disappears in Made in Acapulco, the prequel collection of short stories, and she began to collect information about women who have gone missing in the Acapulco area. She calls the missing women Las Perdidas—the Lost Ones—and has a binder of names. Most of the cases are cold and Emilia is the only one still looking. Thousands of people have gone missing in Mexico due to drug violence in the last 10 years, plus I drew on reports of the decades-old mystery of missing women in the Juarez area and desparacida notices in Latin American newspapers to build this part of Emilia’s world.


5.  What are some of the main socio-economic issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?

The Detective Emilia Cruz series is grounded in contemporary Mexico. It was important to me to make the series as authentic as possible—this isn’t Baywatch with Emilia running around in a bikini. Starting with Cliff Diver, the series pits Emilia against gender inequality, income equality, human trafficking, and official corruption. The setting of Acapulco forces Emilia to live with one foot in the deluxe tourist locations that ring the bay and the other in the impoverished and violent barrios far from the water’s edge. Pacific Reaper stayed true to Emilia’s world, but added the complexity of dark religious beliefs.


6.  What do you hope readers gain from your book?

First, I hope readers are entertained and want to read more Emilia Cruz! The books are mainstream police procedural fiction. Mystery lovers are my main audience. I hope they get a better understanding of the issues that Mexico faces right now and see Emilia as hope for the future.


7. What inspired you to be a writer?

I’ve always loved the art of arranging words on a page and finding new ones in a thesaurus. I got my start as a novelist, however, writing an aviation adventure series for my son when he was in third grade. He adored airplanes and while there were plenty of non-fiction books, we couldn’t find an age-appropriate action story. I wrote two novels in which a young teen always winds up in the cockpit of historic aircraft, The Secret Blackbird and The Pacific Ghost, but never published either.


8.  What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

I love the editing process but hate typing in a first draft. I’m always so impatient for what’s in my head to get on the page! I also love that my dog sleeps on a fur blanket next to my desk whenever I sit down to work. I’m never alone; he’s like Velcro.


9.  Who are some of your favorite authors?

When it comes to mystery, I love books by Robert. B. Parker, Jo Nesbo, Louise Penny, Susan Spann, Tana French, and Ann Cleeves. For dialogue and humor, no one does it better than P.G. Wodehouse and I’ve learned much about pacing and flair from his Jeeves series. When it comes to craftsmanship, I’m in awe of Carlos Fuentes. The Eagle’s Throne was a tour de force.


10.  If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character?

Believe me, I have thought of this! Last year I signed an option contract with a major US studio for a television series based on the Detective Emilia Cruz series. I don’t know if a series will ever become reality, but I think Gina Rodriguez would be terrific as Emilia Cruz, with Salma Hayek as Carlota Montoya Perez, the self-absorbed mayor of Acapulco; and Benjamin Bratt as Victor Obregon, the crooked head of the police union. I’m not sure who should play Franco Silvio, Emilia’s cranky partner in Pacific Reaper, or Kurt Rucker, her hotel manager boyfriend. I’m open for suggestions!


11.  Are you working on anything right now?

I’m working on 43 Missing, Detective Emilia Cruz #6, which was sadly inspired by the true disappearance of 43 students from the town of Iguala, not far from Acapulco, in September 2014. Emilia will find out what happened to them in a powerful conclusion, but of course it will be fiction. In reality, it’s been three years and I’m not sure anyone will ever know the truth. 43 Missing is slated for release in early November.


12.  And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

A few years ago, I wrote a series of posts for and have been happy to see the steady growth in Latino books for children. But when you get to adult reading material, I think Latino literature is mostly associated with literary fiction. There are wonderful books by Latino authors in this category, but the reality is that the most popular fiction genres for readers worldwide are romance and mystery. Latino literature needs to expand more aggressively into these categories.

I appeared on NPR’s Alt.Latino show with Felix Contreras last year and we discussed the Detective Emilia Cruz series and other Latino mystery series. Compared to Nordic noir, there isn’t much. Colorado-based Manuel Ramos has been tremendously successful. Leighton Gage’s Inspector Silva series set in Brazil was a role model for me when I was told books with all Mexican characters would never sell. But there is room for much more.

Thank you so much! Readers are invited to get a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library at